As we approach the summer solstice, the red berries are starting to ripen. We have to cover them with one of our large sheets of nylon bird netting. If we don’t cover the ripening fruit, the birds will take the lot in a couple of days.
We have made a few small picks over the last week, but now, the real crop is ripening. We go out early, before the heat of the sun builds up. We pull back the net half way and work over one side, then the other. In half an hour we fill half a dozen plastic tubs with luscious ripe red/black berries.
We will do this every 2nd day for a week now and then once or twice more during the next week and they will all be all but gone before Xmas.
Back in the kitchen, Janine weighs the munificence of the canes. We have harvested 3 1/2 kilos this morning, and another 3 kilos the day before. It’s a great start to the day and the week.
Bach in the cool of the house, we re-hydrate with a cup of last years preserved dark grape juice. It’s so thick and concentrated, it is 100% grape juice and nothing else, pasteurized and vacuum sealed. It’s really amazing stuff that bears no resemblance to anything that you can buy in a shop. The commercial grape juices that i have tried, taste like they are 80% water in comparison. This stuff is just so rich and thick and concentrated in comparison. So much so that it has to be mixed 50/50 with water, otherwise it is just too strong. It’s a great natural, flavourful thirst quencher.
While I go back to work down to the kiln factory finishing up the last of the work on the current job, that is due for delivery on Wednesday, Janine stays in the kitchen to make todays harvest into 3 gratifying indulgences.
First, a youngberry sorbet, which is made from the juice sieved from the berries, no pulp in there, she only adds a very small amount of gelatine and some orange juice and then it is churned in the freezer, until it sets.
juice of 500g youngberries
juice of a couple of oranges
1 tbs of gelatine powder
Second, she makes a youngberry jelly. This jelly is a desert jelly. It is made with the berry juice and gelatine and placed in the fridge until it sets.
First bring the whole fresh fruit to the boil and mash it all up with a potato masher as it is heating. This liberates the juice quicker. Pour through a sieve or cheese cloth to remove the pulp and pits. While still warm, pour the juice into a medium pottery bowl and add one tbs of dried gelatine and stir until dissolved. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally while cooling to keep the gelatine in suspension. Once cooled, place in the fridge to set.
Her third creation is youngberry jelly This is a fruit conserve jelly. The kind that you spread on toast at breakfast. This is really sensational. I think that this is the best thing that can be made from youngberries. Everything made with youngberries is good, but this is the best! The balance of concentrated fruit flavour, the natural fruit acid and the natural sweetness of the fruit is just amazing. It takes a bit of time, but it is all there, just for there making.
Fill two 5 litre boilers with fresh fruit. Bring the fruit to the boil and simmer for a short time, while mashing the fruit pulp to express the juice. When it has cooled, pour it through cheese cloth and let the liquid drain freely from the fruit for several hours, or overnight. Don’t squeeze of press the cloth to extract more juice, or the jelly will become cloudy. You can add a small amount of sugar to the clear juice and bring back to the boil. Most recipes say to add equal weight of sugar to that of the juice for this kind of jelly, but that makes it ridiculously sweet. However, it does ‘gell’ quicker. Janine only adds a 1/4 of that amount of sugar and cooks it a little longer. This serves to concentrate it more and makes it all the more intense.
Simmer this mixture to allow the fruit flavour to concentrate and intensify. Test by putting a small sample on a dish and place it in the fridge until it ‘sets’. If it doesn’t ‘set’ , cook it for longer. This standard jam making procedure. Once ready, bottle in sterilized jars straight from the oven and screw the lids down tight.
Technically, it will keep for a year, but it never lasts that long. This jelly making activity makes the kitchen and most of the house smell so delicious. The sweet, acidic fragrance wafts right through the house. It smells so amazingly good. We polish off the first jar in just two sittings.
Janine also bottles the whole berries as simmered pulp, once sterilised it is bottled hot jars from the oven and keeps for ages. We made so much of this last year, we still have some left.
We are grateful for this largesse of our canes. They provide for us in this bountiful way each year in the early summer and I reciprocate in kind by diverting the underground seepage trench from the septic system over into their direction. These vines and the cherry trees below them are now well watered and well fed throughout the year by this artificially created underground spring of nutrient rich water. Totally natural, gravity fed and organic!
Best wishes Steve
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